Freaky Friday’s ~ The Name Game

freaky-friday-logoHave you ever come upon an ancestor whose last name is slightly different from their parents? Names like “John/Johnson, Anders/Anderson or perhaps, Issac/Isaacson”? Cultures that traditionally used patronymic family names gave the child the father’s first name then added the word son to it. In Norway, each son of Anders was an “Andersen” and every daughter was an “Andersdatter”.

The first known Patronymic naming of a child was in 1612. It became a very popular custom for those who had ventured to the New World. Many of the immigrants came seeking a new life or a new start so with that came a new variation of their name. I have one such ancestor name, John Dods. He was born in Great Neck, Yorkshire, England in 1571. He arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and married a woman named Jane shortly after that. When they began to have children (I only have proof of 2 sons) the boys were named Jesse and Benjamin Dodson.

Following this principle, I started doing some research into other cultures naming traditions. Basically, I was hoping to find any information about one of my brick wall ancestors, Jane Virtchworth. There is absolutely no documentation to be found for her. The source of Jane’s name appears to be a private letter written more than 100 years ago which stated, “Benjamin Goodin came from Wales and settled in Baltimore, Md ca 1750. He was m in Va in 1762 to Jane Virtchworth. He d. aged 101”. This information comes from “Descendants of James (Timothy) McClintock and Some Related Families…” by A. Louise (McClintock) Shelton, published in 1985. See footnote on page 19 for more details regarding the source of this letter. So during my research, I came across the following information:

Among the Welsh, every male child of David would be an “ap David” and everyWalesMap daughter a, “virtch David”. Using this information we could assume that Jane Virtchworth was really Jane virtch Worth. Her father’s first name was “Worth” and his family name — a patronymic — would have been “ap [what ever his father’s first name was]”. So my next step will be to search records in the Culpeper County, VA, and the Maryland area sometime between 1750 and 1762 to see if there may be an immigrant who arrived from Wales and has the first name of Worth with a daughter named Jane. This will be a tedious task and there is no guarantee that this method will work. However, I believe it would be worth a try.

I wonder how many other “Freaky” ways of attempting to tear down brick walls there are?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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